Bar News - May 15, 2009
Governors Air Membersí Concerns on Mediation, Other Issues
The April 16, 2009, meeting of the NHBA Board of Governors featured a roundtable discussion of concerns expressed to members of the elected board by their constituents around the state, covering a number of justice system issues.
In response to a specific request for feedback on the operation of the Courtís Rule 170 program, several governors reported on their experience as well as relaying opinions of members of the Bar.
Several governors said that the ďpaidĒ mediation option of the Rule 170 program is being under-utilized because members prefer private mediation. These practitioners, several governors said, see little advantage to the court-sponsored program, which they believe is less flexible and more bureaucratic than private options. Vice President Marilyn McNamara said that another aspect of the alternative dispute program, mediation in the Family Division, sometimes poses problems when non-lawyer mediators draft agreements that are not reviewed by lawyers. On some occasions, these mediators draft orders or agreements that overlook key issues that, she said, will likely lead the parties to return to Court for adjustments.
In some cases, litigants agree to sign orders without understanding the long-term financial consequences because non-lawyer mediators are unaware of them. McNamara said there are lawyers who will review these agreements for clients on a limited-scope of representation (unbundled) basis, but that option is not always publicized or available.
(The Courtís Office of Mediation & Arbitration is actively seeking feedback on its programs, and is holding a series of brown-bag luncheon meetings on Family Division mediation at courthouses around the state. See page 30 for schedule.)
Christopher Meier, Carroll County Governor, said members in his county, who also practice in Coos County, are concerned about district court consolidations in the North Country that will result in longer travel times and may overtax the facilities that do remain open. He was speaking in particular about the proposed closure of the Colebrook District Court.
In other matters, the Board:
- Endorsed a letter to be signed by NHBA President Ellen Arnold asking the US Congress to support an appropriation of at least $435 million for the federal Legal Services Corporation. (Marilyn McNamara abstained from this vote on the consent agenda.)
- President-elect James J. Tenn, Jr. said the Finance Committee is on track to submit a budget for BOG approval at the Boardís next meeting on May 12.
- Jeanne Herrick, chair of the Committee on Cooperation with the Courts, relayed discussions she has had with Court officials regarding improvements to the court rules process. Following a meeting with Justice Linda S. Dalianis, chair of the Courtís Rules Advisory Committee, Herrick said that Dalianis indicated support for adding a member of the Committee on Cooperation with the Courts to the Advisory Committee. This will provide the Bar with an additional opportunity for involvement during the rules deliberation process.